Bob Polk didn't start playing golf until he was out of graduate school. By then he'd played baseball, basketball and football at Washburn High (Class of '41), had done a four-year hitch in the Navy and was in the middle of 10 years serving as a trainer with the Minneapolis Lakers.
"I took it up after the service," said Polk, 88. "Before that, we all figured golf was a rich man's game."
But now, retired in Lake City, Polk plays golf, three or four times a week. And he usually sets out with one goal: to shoot his age. "It's getting easier as I get older," he said.
A couple weeks ago, at a golf outing for older alumni of the Richfield American Legion baseball program, Polk brought Dwan Golf Club to its knees with a 7-under (age) 81. It was an ideal course for that kind of score, really. Dwan is a relatively short par-68 club. And on this day Polk -- an 18-handicap at his home course in Lake City -- was hitting it straight off the tee and making his putts.
"I was longer with the woods," he said. "And I was able to hit the greens with the mid or short irons. Of course, then you've got to drop the putts, too."
Polk, who spent decades in hospital administration, has been retired for years. But his name is a blast from the Twin Cities sporting past.
After graduating from high school, he and some buddies went to enlist. He was going to sign up with the Marines, but didn't get along with a recruiting sergeant and walked across the hall and joined the Navy. He spent his time running recreational programs for sailors in the Philippines. Three of his buddies who joined the Marines didn't come home. Back home, Polk went to the University of Minnesota and studied physical therapy. He was working part-time for legendary Gophers trainer Lloyd "Snapper" Stein when the Lakers came looking for a trainer. Stein put in a word for Polk, who embarked on a 10-year run with the team. Polk worked with the Lakers during the season, fitting that around his regular job as a physical therapist for a local group of orthopedic doctors.
This was the stretch in which the Lakers dominated the NBA. He remembers the playoff runs, when players would be talking about how they were going to spend their championship pay before the title was won.
"[Coach] Johnny Pollard would yell, 'Shut up, we have a ball game to play.''' Polk recalled. "That was a fun time. The players were gentlemen, hard workers."
Eventually Polk decided he'd like to see his family more, so he went back to school, got a graduate degree in hospital administration, and changed careers.
But he stuck with golf. He's managed three holes-in-one, so far.
"I love the game," Polk said. "As I'm getting older, I'm slowing down quite a bit. But I still love to get out there."